Music of My Life

NaBloPoMo DAY 24:

"Autumn Leaves," sung by Nat King Cole, is the first song I remember hearing. Because of this I have strong unexplainable feelings for the song. I melt when I hear it.

“Autumn Leaves,” sung by Nat King Cole, is the first song I ever remember hearing. Because of this, I have strong unexplainable attachment to the song, and melt when I hear it.

I am no expert when it comes to music but as someone who has listened to a variety of tunes over the years, I know what I like. Which makes me somewhat of a music enthusiast.

Music has been a constant in my life, seeing me through good times and bad and all the times in between. In fact, much like in the movies, I’ve often imagined myself walking through the streets of Manhattan, a la Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with a cup of coffee in my hand and the refrain of “Moon River” playing over me. Or I was more like Mary Tyler Moore, tossing my Tam o’ Shanter cap in the air to the tune of, “You’re going to make it after all.”

To illustrate how strong a bond we humans have to music, consider that one of my earliest memories is a Nat King Cole song which was a popular hit way back when. The song? “Autumn Leaves.”

I was barely a year old when I first heard it, thanks to my mother who’d listen to it incessantly on her favorite New York radio station, WNEW.  The song became sealed on my soul. Around the same time, another song was making its mark and I went crazy for that one, too. It was Dean Martin’s peppy rendition of “Volare.”

In sixth grade, my music teacher had our class singing “The 12 Days of Christmas,” just before our holiday break.  She assigned me to sing the refrain, “five golden rings.” When my turn came, I stood up and belted out in my best soprano,


The teacher had never heard me sing, and didn’t expect I could carry a tune. But I could, and so she signed me up for glee club. I immediately felt as though I’d been discovered, and was convinced I was going to be the next Barbra Streisand. I would practice saying, “No autographs, please!”  And, if you saw me walking to the library or hanging out at the mall, chances are you heard me singing, “Don’t rain on my parade” and “Oh my man I love him so…”

I stayed in glee club and choir all through high school. I even learned to play piano, mastering Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” To this day, the piano and the saxophone remain my favorite musical instruments. Piano music sounds wonderful no matter what the style of music and, in my estimation, the sax was made for jazz.

In college I dropped out of chorus. No longer were we performing the songs from my high school days–show tunes and snappy, uplifting music like Handel’s “The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God” or “Doctor Foster went to Gloucester in a shower of rain.” We were now forced to sing brooding music which wasn’t my cup of tea.

Sprinkled through the college years were Carly Simon’s “The Boys in the Trees,” Kool & the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging,” and Joni Mitchell’s “Help me, I think I’m falling in love again.” If you ask me, Joni’s “Court and Spark” album has to be one of the ten all-time best, absolutely brilliant albums in the world, I kid you not.

Fast forward to divorce and I want to thank the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, along with Whitney Houston, Sting and Bono for getting me through that nightmare period of my life. Without Whitney to sing along with, “I will always love you,” touching every string of my melodramatic heart, who knows where I’d be today! Ditto for Meatloaf’s rendition of “I will do anything for love but I won’t do that.” Amen!

Driving along dark winding roads at night, the thought of driving off into a steep ravine would envelop me in those bleak days, but the voices of these musicians on my car stereo, were louder and ever stronger, helping stem my grief and pain, until the day finally came when I was able to say to Gloria Gaynor, I too will survive, despite once being afraid and petrified.

As a connoisseur of music, I love all kinds. The proof is in my iTunes  playlist–over 8,000 songs and counting. I even had a country music period, which hasn’t quite gone away. I love Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Clint Black singing with his wife, Lisa Harmon, “When I said I Do.” Don’t get me started on that amazing number.

Here’s a list of my Top 20 songs, in no particular order (Mind you, it was extremely difficult to keep it to 20):

Rod Stewart – “Maggie May”

Joni Mitchell “Morning Morgantown”

Jefferson Airplane “White Rabbit”

U2 “Where the Streets Have No Name”

Lulu “To Sir With Love”

Smokey Robinson “The Tears of a Clown”

Stevie Wonder “My Cherie Amour”

The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”

Carly Simon “Let the River Run”

Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You”

Louis Armstrong “A Kiss to Build a Dream On”

The Beatles “I Will”

Carole King “I Feel the Earth Move”

Dixie Chicks “Cowboy Take Me Away”

Elton John “Crocodile Rock”

Bobby Darin “Beyond the Sea”

The Who “Baba O’Riley”

Billy Joel “James”

Rodgers & Hammerstein “It Might as Well be Spring”

Roberta Flack “Killing Me Softly with His Song”

Now, go listen to these songs and tell me angels never weep.

So, what are your all-time favorite songs? Do tell!


Note: This is the last week of NaBloPoMo. Thirty days, 30 posts.  How am I doing? How’s my driving? Too fast, too slow or what?

I’m awarding a prize to one lucky reader–the one person who has commented on the most posts this month. If there’s a tie, I’ll do a drawing.  So, what are you waiting for?

16 thoughts on “Music of My Life

  1. Music is also my number one interest, particularly opera and classical. I love Bach’s Goldberg Variations and almost anything Bach, the keyboard concertos, the choral works, and also like Chopin’s nocturnes, waltzes, and the Piano Concerto Number 2. I also love love love folk music, in particularly from the 70s and also Irish music. In popular music my list would include; City Called New Orleans with Willie Nelson singing; I Will Always Love You: Autumn Leaves: Imagine: Shout; I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry: Anniversary Waltz: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain: Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory; Would You Know My Name if I saw you in Heaven; as starters. I also sang in choirs for about 25 years.

    • What a fabulous selection of music. I love Willie Nelson singing some of the old standards, like Moonlight in Vermont and Autumn in New York. Imagine, too. John Lennon is and always will be pure genius.

  2. My favorite topic and boy can I talk about it. Yet another thing we have in common Monica – and we have many. Nat King Cole will always have a special place in my heart because his music keeps me close to my dad – now passed on. I grew up listening to him. Autumn leaves was one I heard many a time. I remember my dad whistling to it. It takes me back to a time when life was just simple.
    My list is crazy and eclectic but there are some you’ve mentioned that move me to bits, every single time.
    To Sir With Love – oh how I loved that film. Let the River Run – so powerful and used to be my anthem for a while. Where the Street’s Have No Name and (I’m adding) With or Without You. Dean Martin I adore.. I melt when I hear Baby it’s Cold Outside, Volare and Return to me.
    I will add a few classical bits that reduce me to tears I don’t know why.. Vivaldi’s Four Season’s- Winter. Chopin’s Nocturne in E, Bach’s solo cello – No1. in G Major.
    I played the piano too and play it now just because I love it so much.
    I’ve gone on far too much – see, I can really chat about music. How I love your posts. Every single one has something that makes me smile, think deeply or lift my spirits.

    • MM, I hope that you and I are destined to meet one day. We do have so much in common and I would love to have a nice long chat with you.

      It gladdens the heart to even know that you’re familiar with many of the songs I love. I absolutely love With or Without You, but I left it out because I was trying to limit my songs to one per musician, with the exception being the Beatles. I would’ve gladly included more of their songs because I love them all. They just wrote too many brilliant songs. OMG, I love Chopin’s Nocturne and just about anything Bach. How about Pachelbel’s Cannon in D? Did you see Ordinary People? That’s where I first heard that piece. I’m a great fan of the Rat Pack. Don’t get me started on Frank Sinatra!

      • I haven’t played the piano in a while because I’m always rushing my kids here and there but after reading your post last night. I played Pachelbel’s Cannon in D for my girls – one of my favorite pieces and one of the first I re-taught myself to play. You lifted my spirits for I then played Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring( adore that piece) Brahms Lullaby and tinkered away until dinner time. Have you heard Dean Martin’s version of Brahm’s lullaby? it gives me goosebumps.
        Oh Monica, I completely forgot about Frank Sinatra. New York, New York, Fly me to the moon… oh my list is endless. And well… the Beatles… there’s always the comfort of the Beatles. When I worked at my university’s library in Australia, we started work at 5.30 am. All of us were so tired and bleary eyed but one of us would play Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra, the music vibrated throughout the library and shelving books became the most joyful part of our day.

        We will meet, I’m certain of that.

      • I’m so glad to hear that my post made you want to play those pieces. I would’ve loved to been listening in the wings. Must’ve sounded so beautiful. Fly me to the Moon is one of my favorites!

  3. In addition to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I just knew more music would be coming from you. Wow! Not only are you tackling a post a day, but you actually pared down your favorites to 20, voilá…tada…here it is unveiled… my 20 most favorite? It would be like having favorite children for me. I don’t know if I could do it, considering all the great artists, all the great soundtracks, all the great musicals times all they produced. But then, that’s why I love reading your posts. They are exuberant, positive, embracing. You truly have that “joie de vivre” and it comes out in every post.
    I will say the very mention of “Autumn Leaves” takes me back to memories of my dad and mom as a young couple. They loved Nat King Cole. “Autumn Leaves,” “When I Fall in Love,” “Perfidia,” “Quizás…” played on our hifi in our little cottage home in Essex County, New Jersey right after we moved to the States from Mexico.

  4. One of the first songs I learned in grade school chorus was “Autumn Leaves.” I don’t know why our teacher selected it, but you’re right — hearing it brings back all sorts of memories.

    That’s the way with music. I started piano lessons when I was a kid (my favorites still are the classics — Mozart, Bach, and the others), and I added Band when I got to junior high (clarinet and sax). I can’t imagine driving today without a stack of CDs or Sirius cranked up good and loud!

    As for listing my favorite songs, no can do — that’s like asking me to list my favorite scents or colors!!

  5. Nice choice of music Monica. Certainly a mixture.

    I like lots of different music from classical such as Mozart to stuff by Mike Oldfield & Rick Wakeman. With The Carpenters somewhere in-between.

    My favourite though is country music, not the modern stuff that’s more like mindless pop but some of the more traditional. Favourite artist at the moment without doubt is Heather Myles. A duo I have coms across is Ward Thomas from here in the UK, they are twins and around 20 years old. Have a look on You Tube for some of their stuff. Their first album is all written by them.

    I must admit I am not a fan of male artists, my music collection which is at the moment just over 4000 tunes is 99.9% either instrumental or female vocals.

    From your list my favourite is Lulu with To Sir with Love, it is a very powerful film and shows a true face of the UK at that time, whilst not actually being a fan of Lulu herself I think her vocal rendition of the song fits the film perfectly.

    • Thanks for sharing your list. I would say that To Sir with Love is in my top five. I absolutely love that song. It’s like 2 minutes long and I often end up playing it over and over again. It is beautiful and poignant and evokes a nostalgia in me that makes me pine for the memory of my childhood. It transports me to another world long gone.

  6. That is an eclectic collection. It’s so hard to pull out favorites! It depends so much on what I’m in the mood for. Maybe that’s the key. My favorites tend to be ones I can sing along to that match the mood I’m in at the moment. For “teen angst” I would have to say it was Hearts Dreamboat Annie that got me through.

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